This was a very hard, yet interesting list to compile. While I thoroughly enjoyed every RPG on this list to some extent, I liked these games much more for things outside of their battle systems. The first game on this list is well-known for its fantastic story, unique areas, and taking its respective series to places never-before-seen. The second game on this list is known for its fantastic exploration, hidden treasures, and beautiful graphics and environments. The third game on this list is a battle system I personally really enjoy, but I know it is objectively bad. The fourth game on this list is harshly criticized in almost every way, but mostly for its battle system. And the fifth game on this list? My personal least favorite battle system in an RPG I've played, and I don't know if I've ever had a more shocking and controversial opinion to date on this site. Two last thing to note before we get into this article: 1) I will not be including games made before 2000 on this list, or else this list would be full of primitive Dragon Quests, Final Fantasies, and Phantasy Stars and 2) I haven't played ever RPG on the planet, and I am fully aware that there are probably some other terrible battle systems out there. Now without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... Top 5 Worst RPG Battle Systems (2023)!
5. Super Paper Mario
My eleventh favorite game of all time, I still adore Super Paper Mario. I love attacking with Pixels like Cudge, Boomer, Thudley, Barry, and Thoreau. I love the ideas for the majority of the boss fights in the game. So what is the problem with the battle system in Super Paper Mario? It's the most laughably easy game in existence. Enemies get one shot, mini-bosses take two minutes to defeat, and even the hardest superboss in the game won't take over five minutes. There just isn't any time to actually appreciate the great boss and enemy designs in this game when Bowser, Thudley, and a Bone-In-Cut can literally kill every boss in the game in one or two hits. When you can kill the final boss with very little thought, that is a serious problem for a game's battle system. Even the original Final Fantasy had an amazing final boss fight gameplay-wise. In an alternate universe, this game could've had a phenomenal battle system! Maybe if there were different difficulty settings, this battle system could have been great! If I could play a mode where every fight was at least five times harder, I would've loved this game so much more. Overall, this battle system was cool on paper, but its balancing was so terrible that I unfortunately had to put this game on my list.
4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
My thirty-fourth favorite game, I still had a very enjoyable time playing this game. Contrary to popular opinion, I actually enjoyed Star Wars Battlefront II's lightsaber combat over this game's. Reflecting blaster bolts in this game? Boring and weird. The double-bladed saber? Poorly implemented and clunky. Locking dual-wielding behind a single ability? What in the heck was that bizarre design choice. I truly don't understand how I adored this battle system a few years ago. I went back to this game recently and was just so incredibly bored. Alright, now that I've annoyed everybody and their Jedi Grandmothers (that was a horrendous joke), let me know what really ruined this battle system for me: Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. This game's sequel just makes replaying this game redundant and derivative outside of exploring the game's arguably more diverse planet lineup. The combat is just so good in Jedi Survivor that Jedi Fallen Order has become a terrible game in comparison (I almost considered putting Octopath Traveler on this list since Octopath Travler II is just so much better than the first, but there are too many unique abilities in the first that didn't return in the second). Jedi Survivor did single-bladed attacks better since they became very versatile with the inclusion of an aerial-centric skill tree for the single-bladed form. That was a mouthful, geez. Anyway, double-bladed attacks also became incredibly fluid and fun to use in Jedi Survivor, and it felt more like the incredible feeling of playing as Darth Maul in Battlefront II. The only things I liked about Fallen Order's battle system were 1) the incredible boss fights and 2) switching between two forms was very fluid in this game, unlike in Survivor and 3) there was a great battle arena in Fallen Order. Overall, this game's battles are just so inferior to Jedi Survivor's and Fallen Order just feels so clunky these days.
3. Final Fantasy VIII
NOTE: I know this game came out in 1999... but that is close enough to 2000. Deal with it.
My thirteenth favorite game of all-time (and third favorite Final Fantasy game), I just had to acknowledge that this battle system is pretty bad. Do I love it subjectively? Heck yeah! But I had to put it on this list. This is one of the most fundamentally flawed battle systems of all-time, and I had to put my opinions aside and put it on this list. First of all, as soon as you fight an enemy with a new spell, it would be stupid to not grind drawing from said enemy until you have 100 copies of the spell! This can be a slog for people who hate grinding (couldn't be me...), and if you aren't playing the recent remaster of the game, you can't speed up this process at all. Second of all, this game actively discourages spellcasting and summoning—casting spells lowers your stats, and summoning is slower and deals less damage than physical attacks. Third of all, there aren't any equipment options in this game, which makes battle preparations seem much less boring. Fourth of all, with Card Mod, you can turn cards into spells, effectively making it possible to have the best set-up right out of the gate. And fifth of all, the enemies in Final Fantasy VIII level up with your party, and without much incentive to kill enemies, battles become obsolete (outside of finding Blue Magic, drawing magic, and collecting drops for refining or upgrading weapons). With all five of these points put together, I definitely think that Final Fantasy VIII deserves to be on this list. While I personally adore the Junction system and enjoy the very quirky flaws in this battle system, that doesn't mean its battle system in objectively good. Overall, while I like this battle system, it is fundamentally flawed in so many ways.
2. Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Contrary to most people, I still had a lot of fun with Paper Mario: Sticker Star. It is my fourty-first favorite game, which isn't exactly a high ranking, but not too low either! The stickers, while nowhere near as fun as the other Paper Mario battle systems, were actually not that horrible once I accepted it wasn't the old Paper Mario battle system. The problem with this battle system? It is contrived, trivial, redundant, and quite frankly, it punishes you for fighting battles. While Final Fantasy VIII, doesn't exactly have great rewards from battle, at least its battle system isn't derivative like Sticker Star's. All you get from battle is coins, and coins can only buy stickers. Rinse and repeat. Basically, the game penalizes the player for fighting battles, as then less single-use stickers will be available for the game's boss fights. This is so sad and stupid for a battle system that is unique and not too bad taken on its own merits. If this game simply added an XP system as simple as Super Paper Mario's, or even permanent upgrades like in Color Splash or The Origami King, this probably wouldn't of made it on this list... oh wait. No, Thing stickers exist. My bad. While the boss battles are epic in scale, the Thing stickers being basically a necessity to use makes this battle system still suck. The reason Color Splash also didn't make it on this list is because at least it solved one of the two biggest problems with this battle system. Overall, while this battle system is kind of fun in concept, its reward system and Thing system were terribly executed.
1. Final Fantasy IX
My twenty-first favorite game (and fifth favorite Final Fantasy game), I truly think this is the most boring battle system I've ever played. Hold up, let me sing the praises of this game before everyone kills me and then I'll move onto my problems with this battle ssystem. I loved the story, characters, world, atmosphere, and customization system in Final Fantasy IX—I mean, it's one of my favorite Final Fantasy games for a reason. But as much as I loved it, I thought the battles were a slog to go through. Every animation for every ability is absurdly long. Exiting and entering battles takes ages. Every battle is either too easy, too exploitable, or not worth the absurt amount of loading time it takes to actually get into a battle. Sure, I still really liked some of the boss fights like Hades, Ozma, Garland, and Tantarian, but as a whole? I forgot most of the bosses in this game even existed. I found myself compiling parties thinking "who will take the shortest time to use their abilities?" instead of "which character is the strongest?" It makes me laugh that this is my least favorite battle system of all-time, even though I really like the character abilities and customization system in this game! Before anyone tells me there are speed options in the remaster, I know. But when calculated out? This is only about a 7-8% speed boost. It is not like the speed boost in Final Fantasy VIII that literally triples the speed of battles. This is absolutely embarrasing for Final Fantasy IX. I'm sorry, but I literally ended up enjoying every other Final Fantasy battle system more than Final Fantasy IX's. Yes, that is counting the first three Final Fantasy games. I'm sorry, but this battle system is the only reason that I will never replay this phenomenal game. The day they remaster (or remake) this game with a much better battle system? I'll be rejoicing. I'll buy that game day one, trust me, because as a whole? I love Final Fantasy IX. And of course, I will be making a version of this article every year, so if a remaster like that does come out? Final Fantasy IX will definitely not make this list again.
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